When two or more individuals unite in a long–term bond based on attraction and unconditional love, there is formed a powerful unit in society; “powerful” not of course in the sense of governing anyone else, but in the sense of supporting and encouraging each family member, educating the children, and resisting any outside aggression such as rules imposed for its conduct. Some families accumulate wealth over several generations, so increasing their strength; government does all it can to reduce that, by taxing income, then taxing spending, then taxing savings, and even — most obscene of all — taxing the event of death, to limit what can be inherited. In a free society all such tax would end, so any family would be free to form such centres of wealth.
There would of course be no rules for forming families; whatever members want to do, by mutual consent, they will do — as determined by self–ownership. Any voluntary arrangement for the structure of a family is consistent with human nature. That does not mean that all types of cohabitation would be equally popular, or effective in propagating the species, but so long as all parties agree there is no problem. Some examples of cohabitation would include:
- Traditional, lifelong man–woman contracts or marriages. Certainly, that has worked well and would continue. Because of its evolutionary success, it may remain the prevalent form of family. The Darwinian test is whether children raised in a particular form of family do better, on average, than those from other forms. This form is well–placed.
- Informal man–woman long–term friendships without a marriage contract. That has been successful, and will often be seen in a free society. It seems to provide less security for the woman than a traditional marriage, and since she is the one with the strongest bond with any children, she may continue to be reluctant to manage without a contract stating the intent of permanency. The alternative view is that absence of such a promise of permanency is the best way to keep the marriage vibrant; the partners stay together because, every day, they love each other so much they want to stay together. So if all agree, no problem.
- Man–man and woman–woman friendships, long–term or permanent, by contract written or informal. These are not uncommon today, and they would certainly suffer no prohibition in a free society. However any children would join them only by contract, and it is open to question whether those children would once mature become as successful at reproducing themselves as those of heterosexual couples. But if they do — that is the way the cookie crumbles.
- Ménages à trois, quatre, cinq, six — any number in consensual group marriages with any gender mix. Such exotic arrangements would in no way be prohibited. However they may well not succeed in becoming commonplace; for Murphy’s Law of Domestic Tranquillity holds that the difficulty of avoiding squabbles over household money and other shared facilities is proportional to the square of the number of people married. Thus, a couple encounters four times the difficulty of one person living alone, three would multiply it by nine, four by sixteen, and so on. Hardly a case of “the more the merrier”.
- Polygamous marriages, with one husband and many wives or one wife with many husbands. This could work fine if there was a surplus of men or women in the population, but when numbers are roughly equal it gives the opposite sex a lousy deal. Probably it will not catch on — but certainly it may occur and would in no way be outlawed.
- Harems, that is, several women at the disposal of one man, or several men at the disposal of one woman. Provided that the participants have a contract, there can be no objection. If however they are forced into such an arrangement, or swindled into it by religious myth, that is one form of family that would not survive the transition to a free society.
Today, government interferes with both the formation of families and with their dissolution, that is, divorce. In order to marry, normally a couple must get permission from the state and jump through some of its hoops and even pay it a fee. Then if they must, later on they can split up only with the approval of a government court — even if the terms of the divorce have already been agreed! All that would be flushed away, in a free society; families would form and dissolve at the will of their members, and should there be any dispute about terms, free–market courts would be chosen to arbitrate.
In keeping with the market principle that the only obligations upon free people are those undertaken by voluntary, explicit contracts, it is to be hoped that marriages will start with a pre–nuptial. That would specify what would happen in the event of divorce, and so save a huge amount of heartache later on. Thus, those services of arbitration would be rarely needed.
Divorce rates rose rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, right in line with the growth of the government industry; and the correlation has an obvious cause — in the ballooning income tax during that period. Rates are so heavy that the second spouse must go out to work to earn enough to pay the tax on the combined household earnings. That tax is incidentally not properly enacted into United States law, but it is enforced as if it had been anyway, in another great government swindle. The effect is to place strain upon every family. By obligation far more than choice, “latchkey kids” return from government school to an empty house; both parents are tired when eventually they all get together; tensions mount and surprise, surprise every other marriage ends in divorce. A tragedy for all, particularly the children.
In a free society no such burden would be imposed so if both parents work out of the home it will be by their own choice, and home–schooling would be so prevalent that children would be raised strong, self–confident, and self–sufficient, and so better able to withstand a breakup if one should occur.
It is hard to tell whether the divorce rate will rise or fall, after society becomes free. The prevalence of proper contracts that cover the eventuality would make it easier and less guilt–ridden, but the strains placed on any marriage would be far fewer, absent government and its taxes; so on balance the rate may well fall steeply. Whatever the case, members of the family will be far better equipped to handle it.
“Belonging” in a stable and loving family is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures and if that rate does fall, that pleasure will be enjoyed more widely and that in turn will greatly enhance the net happiness of all individuals in a free society.
Children are integral and delightful members of any family, and enjoying their company is another of life’s greatest pleasures. Children are either wanted, or not wanted; and for the sake of the species, one should hope that the former far outweighs the latter. But a couple can enjoy sex without the least intention of having a baby, and in the nature of the activity they may do so without actually considering the question at all and, horrors, an unwanted pregnancy is upon them. What to do?
In today’s bigot–ridden society there is no end of conflict about that, and since the apparatus of government exists it will, sometimes and somewhere if not always and everywhere, take the tough decision away from the couple — where it belongs — and make it on behalf of voting bigots, who are strangely absent when the time comes to pay the bills and raise the baby.
In a free society, there would not be any such laws and so the decision would be taken by the one who is pregnant, as should be the case because she alone, being her own self&ndsah;owner, has the exclusive right to do so. Abortion will be an option, but in a free market there will be another choice, that does not exist today: A financial arrangement could be made with those who feel strongly that birth should be given. Those who disagree with abortion would offer the girl money to deliver the baby, and then take their baby for adoption. Today, government laws make that difficult if not impossible, because of the widespread, hysterical voter bigotry against “baby trading.”
This raises the question: Whose life is the baby’s, anyway? Logically, a self–owning human being owns whatever their body produces, including babies. Once whatever part of a human is physically disconnected from the whole and not wanted to be returned, it can be said to be abandoned property. Such abandoned property is unowned and ready for someone else to claim. Because a baby has consciousness, it automatically becomes the owner of itself the moment it is born, as it has not only the first but also the best claim to do so. Essentially, the mother owns the foetus prior to birth, and the baby owns themselves afterwards.
Notice that in a free society nothing would prevent anyone trying to persuade a pregnant mother not to abort, even without an offer of payment or adoption. Some may feel that the foetus is after all a potential human being and that the right choice is to give birth. Such might reason with her that abortion may bring regrets, or psychological scarring, or loss of good reputation — neighbours might wag fingers and say “look, there goes Hester, who aborted her baby!” — and so forth. But ultimately she owns herself, and therefore the choice is exclusively her own.
Even so, that leaves one rather obvious question to be resolved: The brand–new baby has the right of self–ownership, but not the ability to do a whole lot with it. They need help to survive! Who is obliged to provide that help?
Once again, the answer is quite easy: Obligation rests upon the person who decided to give birth, for free decisions always carry consequences and responsibility. That will almost always be the mother, but it might be a person or group who contracted with her, prior to birth, to adopt the baby once born, perhaps with a transfer of money. Notice that in every case, the decision to give birth was thoughtful and deliberate and would not rest upon a moment of thoughtless passion; accordingly, it is hard to imagine any circumstance in which a baby would not be wanted, in a free society. That is a minor and incidental by–product of the change to freedom, but on its own it could bring almost incalculable benefit in human society!
Just think: Every child a wanted child!
Raising the child would then proceed much as today, with enormous pleasure attending each stage as well as heavy responsibilities, and with lifelong love and affection; but with some key differences:
- No government spy would be looking over the parents’ shoulders with a threat to remove the children if the upbringing is not done according to its will instead of the parents’ will. There would be no implication that the state owns the children — for there would be no state.
- As above, there would be no need for one of them to work so as to pay a government tax on their combined incomes — for there would be neither tax nor government. Until around 1950 tradition sent the husband out to win bread, and kept the wife home to do most of the child–rearing; pay and taxes rates made that perfectly feasible. In a free society, it will again be a good option — though the husband may be the one staying home.
- Both parents will be keenly aware that the child owns their own life and that that ownership must be respected; if relationships were to turn really sour, no laws would prevent the child advertising for new parents to adopt them. The birth parents would have no property rights in the child!
A parents’ failure to raise children with proper respect for their self–ownership — that is, by teaching them to obey authority rather than to reason out the best choice — is a key source of the widespread, irrational respect for the authority of the state; government schools merely take the already–established habits of obedience and transfer them to government. Any such failure therefore poisons society as well as endangering the family.
Education specifically will start at home on Day One, but will frequently continue there until the grown child wanted to leave home. Home schooling is by far the most effective way to get the job done, and with the internet so widely available there would be more and more packages available to make the task easy, even in an increasingly complex and technical world of knowledge. As noted earlier, “learning seldom takes place in a classroom” but only when the student wishes to acquire a piece of knowledge; home would frequently be the place to impart it and when preferred, a whole variety of for–profit, parent–pleasing schools would be available in the market, and increasingly with age and maturity, the child themselves would take control over what is learned and where and how. “Parent–pleasing” would rightly though gradually give way to “student&mnash;pleasing” — although if a service of schooling is purchased, the child would need to find a way to pay the bills if they choose options their parents dislike.
Today in a host of ways children are taught they are cogs in a system, that they have a small place in the apparatus of state and that it is up to them to find out what it is and stay there. It is hard to overstate how totally different would be the process of education in a free society. In absolute contrast, the growing self–owner would be led to explore and exploit their own potential and wishes. Child–raising would be a process of helping build a society of confident, self–sufficient individuals able — to recapture a phrase stolen by the United States Army — to “be all that they can be.”
Make use of the following questions and the associated feedback to check knowledge and understanding of the topic covered in this unit.
Make use of the following additional resources to expand knowledge and understanding of the topic covered in this unit.
The entire unit, including all additional resources, can also be downloaded as a workbook to be used offline.
If review questions have been completed and additional resources have been perused, progress to the next unit.